Saturday, March 3, 2012

Essential Listening: Snap Judgment

My life has recently been turned upside-down and inside-out and I did it to myself pretty much deliberately.

I started working the graveyard shift at that job of mine that I can't talk about in public. Suddenly morning is night (and it's y'all's morning now, creeping slowly up on 6am local time) and night is morning; Thursday is Monday and Sunday is Friday, but it was like that a lot before... but now, now I'm a daysleeper.

And that means I miss a lot of stuff I dig on public radio, once my sole resource for culture and news living out here on the edge of a Martian plateau (as my friend Scott Bieser describes it a lot in his fantastic blog Living on Mars). No more Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, no more Splendid Table, no more This American Life. They're available as podcasts, of course, but there's something so great about just having one of these shows rambling on when I start up my car, keeping me company on my commute or my errands.

But this isn't my first graveyard rodeo. No sir. Several years ago, before the KATE STATION was even a glimmer of fancy and I was doing time in the Vertical Trailer Park (a wretched apartment complex that seems to be the only place in this city that lets tenants have dogs), I was a daysleeper then, too. And I discovered that public radio had some pretty fantastic offerings for my wee hours commute home: my local station has The Commonwealth Club of California on Sundays, and that's maybe worth a blog post sometime, too, but on Saturdays, oh, on Saturday's there is Snap Judgment.

Snap Judgment, for those who've not followed my links or regarded my shout-outs on Twitter, is a themed storytelling program that might be considered broadly similar to This American Life, but it's far from a TAL clone. Both shows are lively and fun and often funny and often heartwarming, but where TAL tends to go for the ironic, the arch, the too-knowing, the, sorry to say it, hipster angle on these qualities, Snap Judgment is sincere and earnest and sweet and, above all, affirming. I make it sound like some kind of religious program, but that's not really what's going on here. Snap Judgment, as its tag line names it, is "storytelling with a beat", and that's not just the music they're talking about (though the music is fantastic!); click on over to the show's homepage and click on any episode and listen for a moment. I recommend the first track for each show, which is usually a personal story of host Glynn Washington's, and  he sets the tone. His narration has a lilt, a verve, a rhythm all its own, warm and funny and enthusiastic, no matter the subject matter, no matter how his story portrays him. This is a curious man who wants to know more about everything, and wants to share what he's learned, and everything he shares, he shares with a wow. He shares with wonder. And that's contagious.

Like pretty much every program on public radio these days, this one is available as a podcast, or you can stream it from the site. Do! It's great. But for me, I like to hear it in its obscenely early local time slot, bopping gently along in my car on my way home from a long night's work and smiling. Sometimes I wind up sitting in my garage to hear the end of a story or a song (and where TAL has great music, too, it's usually used as a sort of ironic counterpoint or commentary on what its storytellers are talking about. SJ's music just punctuates the stories told and maybe, just maybe, gets my ass moving in the car seat, but never intrudes). And then, fondly, I shut off the car and I shuffle into my house and go to bed full of my favorite emotions, hope, awe, and a basic enthusiasm for my own species that can sometimes feel a lot like faith. Because really, humans are amazing, and so is the world if you just let yourself be open to appreciating it.

I am one happy Snapper.

Good night!

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